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image icon 'Residence of John Macarthur near Parramatta, NSW'

'Residence of John Macarthur near Parramatta, NSW'
Art Gallery of South Australia

Description

This is a watercolour study by the painter Joseph Lycett (1774-1828), measuring 20.8 cm x 28.6 cm and painted around 1824. It depicts Elizabeth Farm, which had been established some 30 years earlier (1793) by the founders of Australia's merino wool industry, Elizabeth and John Macarthur. It shows an open park-like setting by the banks of a river. The farm itself, a substantial building with outhouses, can be seen in the middle distance. Other distant buildings and post-and-rail fencing provide evidence of extensive land clearance and settlement. A fashionably dressed couple strolls in the foreground, and ornamental-looking trees are lined up decoratively along the river bank.

Educational value

This resource is useful because it:

  • is typical of a kind of art that began to appear in colonial New South Wales around 25 years after initial settlement (1788) - by this time there was a growing demand not only for images of flora and fauna, studies of Aboriginal people and views of the settlement's progress, but also of homesteads, pastoral development and the natural landscape
  • shows how some artists applied a system of landscape painting known as 'picturesque' to make their art appealing to patrons and audiences, particularly those back in England - this style of landscape painting used visual devices such as dramatic lighting, carefully designed compositions to lead the eye through the landscape, distortion, and the elimination of distracting or 'ugly' details to 'improve' on nature and create a poetic mood
  • is the work of a significant convict artist, Joseph Lycett, who was transported to NSW in 1814 - like most of Australia's first artists, Lycett did botanical studies but is better known for his carefully completed landscapes; he also accomplished a significant set of landscapes, in which he recorded various social customs of the Aboriginal inhabitants
  • is an early Australian landscape that already celebrates a sense of achievement and rapid progress
  • illustrates the role that some colonial artists (including Lycett) took in the provision of information about Australia and its promotion and settlement - Governor Macquarie sent Lycett's watercolours of Sydney, Parramatta and Windsor to Lord Bathurst, the Colonial Secretary in London, to publicise the development of the colony under his administration
  • was one of a number of watercolours used as a basis for prints (aquatints) produced by Lycett on his return to England - these prints were issued monthly in 12 sets priced at seven shillings a set, or ten shillings and sixpence (coloured), and showed small neat townships, grand houses and homesteads set in tidy, park-like settings, with the Australian landscape translated into stage-set English gardens with picturesque rocks, waterfalls and trees
  • offers an insight into the entrepreneurial activities of a colonial artist - 'Residence of John Macarthur' is one of a number of preparatory watercolours made by Lycett for a promotional books of engravings ('Views in Australia') published in 1823-24 after he had returned to London; the text accompanying the illustrations describes in glowing terms the progress being made in the colony.